Kim Nemire—Making Responsible Sport Happen at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run
Hi Everyone, Shelley Villalobos, the Certification Director at the Council for Responsible Sport here! I recently had the pleasure of talking with Kim Nemire, the sustainability coordinator for the gold certified Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, held annually in the early spring at the Washington Monument Grounds on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The event is the 28th largest road race in the U.S. according to Running USA’s 2015 50 Largest Road Races rankings, with almost 18,000 participants finishing. I got to hear about her work on the race and how it’s evolved over the past several years. Read on to get some insight into the work behind-the-scenes to make the CUCB as sustainable as possible.
SV: Hi, Kim! Thanks for talking with me today! Let’s start by giving folks an idea about your role with the Cherry Blossom run.
KN: Sure! I’m the volunteer sustainability coordinator for the event, working with the race director and deputy director, serving as the point person for sustainability with the race committee, which consists of several dozen people, and working collaboratively with our volunteer sustainability team to make sure everything gets done. I also serve as point of contact for several of the service providers and organizations that we partner with on sustainability.
SV: Great—so how did you get involved? Also, how many people are on the sustainability team and how did it come about?
KN: Well personally, I’ve always enjoyed running, and have run the event a couple of times and loved it. Knowing my interest in both running and sustainability, a mutual friend connected me with Becky Lambros, the Deputy Race Director. Becky confirmed that a group was forming to focus on sustainability and I jumped at the opportunity to bring together two of my interests. At that point someone else was the point person – I took over the role the following year. The sustainability team has five members; we were all interested in the topic so Becky (Lambros—Deputy Race Director) got us together and we just gelled. The team came together back between the 2013 and 2014 races.
SV: Can you talk a bit about the committee’s work?
KN: The committee is focused on the five categories for certification. They are: planning and communications, procurement, resource management, access and equity and community legacy. Each committee member takes on projects within these areas and works on their own, and then we come together as a group to discuss them and brainstorm new ideas. The work usually involves writing up plans and descriptions and working with various stakeholders to make sure the plans are implemented. On race weekend our priorities are waste diversion, working with service providers and volunteers, and engaging with participants at our expo booth.
SV: So what’s something you’re looking to improve on in future years??
KN: One area that needs constant attention is communication. There are so many stakeholders – participants, the race committee, vendors, volunteers, non-profit partners, expo exhibitors, etc – and everyone is tapped to be involved with sustainability in one way or another. From the signage and announcements at the expo and race to emails and social media, we try to get a sustainability message included every time. But there is always room for improvement and we want to look at the content of our messaging, not just the way it is disseminated. This year we worked with a sport sustainability team out of Seattle University to design a survey that will help us customize our messaging for next year. We’re excited to see if the new messaging we develop as a result of the survey has a positive impact on the sustainability of the event.
SV: What advice would you give someone who is interested in doing similar work on how to get involved?
KN: I’d say get in touch with the organizers of a local event. If they have a sustainability program, offer to volunteer. If they don’t, you could offer to start one. Given the massive amount of waste and energy related to large events, this is still an area where a lot of good can be done.
SV: Awesome. So, the CUCB is now a Gold certified event. What kind of feedback did you get when the news came out?
KN: Mostly just ‘congratulations,’— lots of them! Becky & Phil (race directors) are excited about it—and they have been fantastic. They have been very receptive to everything the sustainability team has requested. Sometimes it means financial commitment, their time or someone else’s time, so they’ve really committed themselves to making the race more sustainable. Without that support this would not be nearly as feasible. If the leadership isn’t there, there’s only so much you can do. They’ve really let us take ideas and run with them.
SV: What are you most proud of?
KN: I’d say our sustainability team on the waste diversion. It’s the biggest piece to tackle, starting with planning and communication early on, and then implementation of our plan at the expo and through the weekend and the race. The race generates between eight and ten tons of waste each year, and we do everything we can to keep it from the landfill. We were pleased to divert more than 80% in 2015, by donating clothing left at the start line, composting food waste and recycling everything else. Phil Stewart, Race Director, often jokes about the sustainability team being in the dumpster. And, well, we quite literally are sometimes. We are completely committed to keeping things out of the landfill and will dumpster dive when necessary!
SV: Sounds like you’ve got a winning group of dedicated people. What would you like to see more of from participants?
KN: It’s the GU and energy bar wrappers – so many people just drop them on the ground as they are running. A breeze comes up and blows them out of reach of the street sweeper or into the river, or they just stick to the ground so the sweeper misses them. We want to leave the areas we utilize better than we found them, and we really want to communicate to participants that we want them to properly dispose of these items. We have things in place to make it easy. You wouldn’t litter on your front lawn, and you wouldn’t like it if someone else did either—this is our national front lawn! Also, we also offer a free bike valet and the Metro opens early on race day, so there are good options provided for low-carbon transportation to and from the event that we want to encourage people to utilize.
SV: Those are key tips, and really simple, which is great. Let’s wrap this up with you sharing something fun about the work that you enjoy?
KN: Working with the sustainability team has been great. As we discussed earlier, they are completely committed and willing to put in the time and energy to make it a sustainable event—and we have fun while we’re at it. It’s a good group of people and it’s been really rewarding working with them. I also enjoy being part of a great event. Seeing everything that goes on behind the scenes is fascinating, and being there on race morning and feeling the energy of 17,000+ runners is always a wonderful experience.
SV: Thanks so much for sharing with us and the responsible sport community, Kim—and keep up the great work!